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Transat Jacques Vabre: Imoca Record Setting

(November 17, 2017; Day 12) – Jean-Pierre Dick and Yann Eliès on St Michel – Virbac are predicted to complete a commanding victory in the Imoca class of the 13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre tomorrow (Saturday, November 18) at 21:00 UTC.

It would be a record-breaking victory for Dick, who would become the only person in the history of this bi-annual double-handed race, in any class, to have won four the race four times. Dick, the 52-year-old skipper from Nice, won the Imoca class in 2003, 2005 and 2011.

A 21:00 UTC finish in Salvador de Bahia tomorrow would also mean that Dick and Eliès will set a new record for the Transat Jacques Vabre to Salvador, with Dick beating his own record, of 13 days 09 hours 19 minutes and seconds set with Loïck Peyron on Virbac-Paprec in 2005.

Imoca: Uncomfortable cushions, lucky dice and the sounds of Salvador


St Michel –Virbac, Saturday, November 18, 21:00 UTC

SMA – Sunday, November 19, 12:00

Des Voiles et Vous!, Sunday, November 19, 23:30

“When the sound of flying fish fades, we hear the samba schools in Salvador,” Pierre Lacaze, co-skipper of Vivo A Beira, said yesterday from the middle of a sticky Doldrums, 1,150 miles from the finish.

But it is Dick and Eliés that will surely hear the sounds of the berimbau* first. St Michel-Virbac is reaching at 17 knots in more easterly trade winds off the coast of Recife in north-east Brazil with 330 miles to Salvador. They still cannot shake the determined SMA, who were still 112 miles behind at 16:00 UTC and waiting for any slip.

As Eliès has repeatedly said, quarter-joking, “we have a cushion it’s just not that comfortable.” There will be no relaxing until the line is crossed – particularly after Ultime Prince de Bretagne’s dismasting on Wednesday just 93 miles from the finish. Dick called that: “the worst accident that could happen to a skipper far from home.”

The podium places look take but behind Des Voiles et Vous!, Three other Imoca finally emerged from the Doldrums last night and have started to accelerate again: Malizia II, Bastide Otio and Initiatives Cœur. They were positioned east and were the big winners. Generali and Bureau Vallée 2 were the big losers on the west. The tracker reveals 48 hours of derisory speeds of 5 knots and the tell-tall zig-zagging paths of bemused sailors down the centuries in this unknowable passage.

“Obviously we had a strategy and thought east was best, but some were unlucky,” Samantha Davies, skipper on Iniatives-Cœur, said “It the biggest changes and distances lost and gained in the fleet I’ve seen in the Doldrums. Generali and Bureau Vallée really didn’t deserve to get dealt those cards.

Many teams, with record race times being predicted in Le Havre, took two days of food out of their boats and left them on the pontoons, and some are cutting it fine now. “We took 14 days of food and it’s going to take us a day longer,” Davies said. “We took food out, but actually we haven’t eaten as much as our daily ration allows.”

*A musical Brazilian bow, used especially in the Bahia region to accompany capoeira.

Class40: East is best?


Leaders, Thursday November 23 or Friday November 24

Anglo-Spanish duo, Phil Sharp and Pablo Santurde on Imerys Clean Energy now have four French duos to contend with at the front of the Class40 fleet.

Teamwork40 is now firmly in the lead group – just 14 miles separate the four boats, with Région Normandie Junior Senior by Evernex only 46 miles behind on the same trajectory as Imerys Clean Energy on the west of the lead group. But the gaps have opened a little over the day with boats to the east, including new leader V&B prospering most.

All five are far to the east of the trapped Imoca, keen not to suffer their fate.

But now extended over more than 6° of latitude (almost 400 miles) the infamous Intertropical Convergence Zone will be complex and long to cross. “We’ve had average speeds of around 2 knots – as Pablo (Santurde, co-skipper) said yesterday: ‘It’s like we have been cast adrift into the middle of the ocean,’” Phil Sharp, skipper of Imerys Clean Energy said.

The front five were making 12 knots at 16:00 UTC but they are far from out of it yet, as the Imoca skippers discovered, with the Doldrums extending south faster than they could sail out of them. For the skippers it’s almost like the Route du Café has re-started here.

“The problem is that it’s going to be a very short transat,” Aymeric Chappellier, skipper of Aïna Enfance et Avenir, said. “The ranking on exit (of the Doldrums) will be similar to the final ranking and it feels hard that the whole transat will decided by the Doldrums.” Behind the Club of Five, the fleet is very scattered. Colombre XL and Le Lion d’or will enter the Doldrums tomorrow.

Multi50: One boat left


La French Tech Rennes St-Malo, Sunday, November 19, 13:00 UTC

Réauté Chocolat finished third at 08:19:22 (UTC), 11 days, 19 hours 44 minutes and 22 seconds after leaving Le Havre, Normandy, France and 1 day 0 hours 30 minutes and 3 seconds behind the winner, Arkema.

French Tech Rennes St-Malo is expected to be the fourth and last of the six Multi50 that started to cross the line on Sunday.

Pit Stop
At 19:30 UTC last night, Catherine Pourre and Benoit Hochart left the port of Mindelo (Cape Verde) where they had stopped during the day to repair the damaged starboard rudder on their Class40, Eärendil. They are currently in 10th position, 490 miles from leader V and B.

Quotes from the Sailors

Phil Sharp, skipper, Imerys Clean Energy (Class40)
Yesterday was the hardest day of the race so far, pushing us right to the limits of our psychological stability. At one stage we averaged 1.5 knots over 3 hours, whilst boats to the east were sailing between 4 and 7.5 knots. We were then hit by a large squall with 35 knots of wind, the boat took off and we covered our previous 3 hour distance in just 20 minutes. The centre of the large squall passed right over us, with strong flashes of blinding lightening and rain so hard it was like someone pouring constant buckets of water over you. Half an hour later, we were back to 1.5 knots.

Samantha Davies, skipper, Initiatives-Cœur (Imoca)
Finally we made it out last night, about 22:00 or 23:00. We were under a cloud and had unusual westerly winds, which meant that when we popped out (of the Doldrums) we had a 180 degree wind shift to south-east trades, which was obviously pretty uncomfortable – it was like being thrown about in a washing machine – but luckily it was only a 20-minute cycle. When we were out of that transition we happily going upwind. I’ve done a fair few (Doldrums), that was pretty hard one.

I’m not sure it’s the longest, I think on the Volvo with Team SCA was long, but this Doldrums was one where the lucky dice were rolled. Obviously we had a strategy and thought east was best, but some were unlucky. It the biggest changes and distances lost and gained in the fleet I’ve seen in the Doldrums. Generali and Bureau Vallée really didn’t deserve to get dealt those cards. That’s pretty bad luck. We took 14 days of food and it’s going to take us a day longer. We took food out, but we have pretty good food and actually we haven’t eaten as much as our daily ration allows. And we’ll still even have some treats. Initiatives-Cœur is 100%.

Aymeric Chappellier, skipper, Aïna Enfance et Avenir (Class40)
It still wasn’t easy last night with random, crappy wind fluctuating between sod all and not much, but it’s the game we’re in and the same for everyone. It’s not often that after more than 10 days at sea 5 boats are less than 30 miles apart, for us it’s a war of nerves on the water, but back on land it must be fun to watch. The crew of Aïna is in great shape, ready for a new day of scanning the horizon, chase squalls and clouds, trimming, trimming, helming, dancing on the head of a pin to scrape a tenth of a knot – we won’t stop.

Pierre Lacaze, co-skipper, Vivo A Beira (Imoca)
When the sound of flying fish fades, we hear the samba schools in Salvador. [Vivo A Beira is 1,100 miles from the finish]

Race detailsEntry listTrackerFacebook

13th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre
• Biennial doublehanded race now 24 years old
• Two founding partners: the city of Le Havre and brand Jacques Vabre
• Four classes on the starting line: Class40, IMOCA, Multi50, and Ultimate
• Starting November 5 in Le Havre (FRA) for the 4350nm course to Salvador de Bahia (BRA)
n 2013, and again in 2015, all the boats flew past Salvador de Bahia, sails filled by the trade winds of the south-east, under the tropical sun…One imagines that they dreamt of finally finishing their race in All Saints’ Bay. In 2017, it will be a reality!

After the start line and a coastal route as far as Etretat, the duos will head towards Brittany to get out of the Channel as quickly as possible, where the currents are powerful, cargo traffic dangerous, and a lot of attention is needed.

They will then enter the Bay of Biscay, where, depending on the position of the Azores anticyclone, they will either find downwind conditions, easy and fast, like for the last Vendée Globe, or tougher and slower conditions in the passage of some late autumn depressions.

Four hundred miles later, having passed Cape Finisterre, the northern Portuguese trade winds should propel them quickly towards Madeira, and then the Canary Islands, where awaiting them will be northeast trade winds, which could be strong or weak.

Passing close to the Portuguese coast, or offshore, to the east or west of the Canary Islands and then the Cape Verde islands – you have to choose the right options. The next goal is to establish your position for the crossing of the dreaded Doldrums, located a few degrees north of the equator. At this time of year, it can change position very quickly, extend or contract, because even after carefully studying of the satellite images, sudden squalls can develop and stall the competitors under a good shower without wind for hours.

This passage is crucial in the Transat Jacques Vabre racecourse. Further west… Further east… After the calms, rainy squalls, with too much or no wind… The final goal is to get out well-positioned enough to benefit first from the southeast trade winds and to cover the remaining 850 miles towards the finish,passing along the islands of Fernando de Noronha, along the coast of Brazil and finally heading northwest into the magnificent All Saints’ Bay.

This transoceanic racecourse from North to South is more demanding than a transat from East to West; it requires the skippers to have sharp tactical and strategic qualities, good weather training, to be in excellent physical condition to maintain a sustained speed in the trade winds… And to have a lot of patience to cross the equator.

Source: Transat Jacques Vabre

Gabart on His Solo Record Attempt

(November 17, 2017; Day 12, 21:00 FR) – On November 16, François Gabart entered the Indian Ocean in a record time of 12 days, 22 hours, and 20 minutes. Today, he is taking advantage of calmer weather to rest up and give his boat a once over. The MACIF skipper seemed very confident this Friday morning, telling us about the sensations on board, his intimate knowledge of his boat and about his strategy for the Indian Ocean while on his attempt to break the single-handed round the world record.

How were the first 13 days of this record attempt and how did the fast sail down the Atlantic go?

François Gabart: It went very well. This first part of the record attempt is very positive. It is one of the best ocean racing experiences that I have ever had, with incredible sensations in terms of speed, and in fact, everything that I love. I had a little luck in the South Atlantic. It was amazing that everything followed on so well, opening up ahead of me off the coast of Brazil! Sometimes it can take years to enjoy such conditions. However, it is mentally and physically demanding, requiring great concentration, but that’s also what I’m looking for.

How did familiarizing yourself with the boat after the start go?

FG: I had to do it in a hurry. When you set sail, you’re still not very sure of yourself. You question the angles, the sale configurations, you know that there is swell, currents, rocks… A lot happens inside your head in these first few hours of sailing and then things immediately speed up. I accelerated to 40 knots.

So, you don’t have a choice, you find your bearings quickly and adapt to the limitations of your boat. The more you sail the more you gain confidence. I was lucky to leave in daylight. I had the whole day to familiarize myself with her. I was much more confident when I reached Cape Finisterre and from that point on everything played out well.

Are you still surprised by the MACIF trimaran’s performances?

FG: Yes and no. On the one hand, I know that she is capable of very high speeds, but on the other, the ease with which I reached these speeds is a little disconcerting. When the weather conditions are good, she is easy to sail at 40 knots and she sails really well between 37 and 42 knots, without there being any danger.

Are you happy about the technical choices in Macif’s cockpit, with this completely protected cabin?

FG: One thing I definitely do not regret is the deck plan and the cockpit. You really need to be protected in the weather I’m sailing in. At the start of the 24-hour record, I was wearing crocs and shorts at 40 knots! I feel very safe in the cockpit. This is really important if you want to be able to go fast. You say to yourself that even if the worst should happen, you are in an enclosed space and that’s reassuring.

You have been at sea for 13 days now, a record for you on the MACIF trimaran. How are you coping with the solitude?

FG: I’m coping well. I’m beginning to have my little routines, taking care the boat as I did with the Imoca in the Vendée Globe. I am now in relationship in which it’s just her and me. This fosters a great connection and a certain intimacy that you don’t have with the crew and that you don’t have the time to have during shorter races. I am not talking to her yet, but it won’t be long before I am. Otherwise, I’m not affected by the time, as the days go by very quickly.

That said, so far I have been in regions where I’m not completely alone. In the coming weeks, there will be absolutely nobody, with maybe a few people here and there around the islands of Crozet and Kerguelen, otherwise nothing. But that doesn’t bother me all that much.

What is your mindset as you approach the South Seas?

FG: It’s a little like when you are a kid and you are at the top of a slide. You lurch forward and you’re off, and there’s no going back. There is a time that comes when the shortest way home lies ahead of you. I really feel like I’m being sucked in. It’s slightly daunting, but at the same time it’s incredibly exciting, because you know it’s going to go fast.

What’s more in 80% of my dreams, I’m doing something involving surfing! Here, it feels like South Africa is at a higher altitude than Cape Horn and that I will slide all the way down to Cape Horn. This said, I know that there will be a few bumps along the way.

What sailing conditions are you experiencing now you are in the Indian Ocean?

FG: I am currently crossing a ridge of high pressure, an area of flat calm that connects with the low-pressure system that drove me this far, and the Indian Ocean will take me to another low area coming in from Madagascar. This is a strong low-pressure system. Ideally, I should pass ahead of it, but I probably won’t succeed, so I may have to stay behind. And to stay behind, it is best to let it pass and try to follow it, rather than enter it and be overtaken by the low pressure. This means that once I’ve got on the right side of the high-pressure ridge, I will slow down for a few hours to let the worst of the low pass and then get moving again.

I think it is the first time that I have had to wait while racing. That part of what it’s about and there are times when you just can’t get past. I am going to take advantage of this to give the boat a once over, do some small jobs and finish repairing the batten. I’m also going to rest up as much as possible so that I can get straight back in there after this low-pressure area, because it’s likely to be hard work.

Last year, Thomas Coville sailed across the Indian Ocean very fast. How do you see your crossing?

FG: It’s difficult to say, because this low-pressure area is making a big mess of things. Since it is going to be in front of us for quite a while, this is what’s going to set the pace. Ideally, it would have to progress sufficiently fast in the right direction, for us to maintain good speeds behind. The models are not spot on, but you can be sure of one thing and that’s that there won’t be a record on this section of the course. At best we will achieve a reasonable average.

After nearly 2 weeks at sea, how do you feel physically and mentally?

FG: I’m in great form. I slept well during the night. I don’t think I am in the red sleepwise. And as for how I feel, well naturally I’m all set to fly. I reached the Cape of Good Hope in less than 12 days and it was a wonderful experience on this magnificent boat. If I was feeling down, something would be seriously wrong!

The skipper of the 30m MACIF trimaran is 735.97 nm ahead of the record pace after covering 341 nm in the past 24 hours.

Only three sailors to date (Francis Joyon, Ellen MacArthur, Thomas Coville) have ever held the record. After his start on November 4, to beat the record of 49 days, 3 hours, 4 minutes and 28 seconds held by Coville since December 25, 2016, Gabart will need to cross the finishing line (between Créac’h lighthouse, in Ouessant (Ushant), and the Lizard Point lighthouse in Cornwall, England) before 13.09 on December 23 (French time, UTC+1).

Team detailsTrackerFacebook

Source: Macif team

Volvo Ocean Race: Critical Tactical Phase

(November 17, 2017; Leg 2, Day 13) – Leg Two of the 2017/18 Volvo Ocean Race is entering a critical tactical phase this weekend as the teams position themselves to pick up the weather systems that will carry them to Cape Town. A 130 nautical mile lateral split has opened up in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet on Friday as the teams trade off better wind with shorter distance in a bid to get to Cape Town first.

Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel were today the most westerly boat having gybed onto starboard at 0900 UTC, with Vestas 11th Hour Racing following suit shortly after. For several hours Bekking’s Dutch-flagged boat was actually pointing in the opposite direction to Cape Town, much to the amazement of some race fans glued to the tracker.

By 1300 UTC they were back on port having sailed 40 miles in the ‘wrong’ direction – but seven-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran Bekking explained that, despite what it might look like, there is method to their madness. Brunel and Vestas are in fact gambling on being the first to reach bigger breeze associated with an large South Atlantic depression moving east at speed that could slingshot them to the finish line.

“We were one of the first to gybe, actually heading away from Cape Town,” said Bekking prior to rejoining the fleet on port gybe. The reason for that is that further to the west is more pressure. We are aiming to get to that area, do one final gybe and then ‘jump on the train’. This gybe will be expensive one on paper but we think it’s a good investment for the near future.”

Brunel trimmer Annie Lush added: “This is a really important part of the leg. There are big gains and losses to be made.” Meanwhile Brunel’s Dutch rivals team AkzoNobel were some 130 miles to their east having opted to ‘cut the corner’ by sailing a more direct route to the Leg 2 finish line. Their bold move puts them atop the rankings at 1300 UTC because they are significantly closer to Cape Town than their rivals.

However the compromise that comes with their decision is having to wait longer for the stronger, more favourable winds of the low pressure system to pick them up. In the middle is Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE, the two furthest south boats. They are expected to pick up that coveted breeze on Sunday, signalling the start of a wet and wild run into the finish line that has the potential to see the 24 hour distance record tumble.

“The next 24 hours are going to set up the strategies for this leg,” said MAPFRE’s navigator Juan Vila, “We’ve talked about using stealth mode – we don’t know whether to use it now or later on. We haven’t made that decision yet. There are a lot of opportunities [to overtake Dongfeng] in the southern Atlantic, and in fact all the way to Cape Town, so we will try to make the best of these and find a passing lane. Anything can still happen.”

Further to the north, skipper David Witt’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag chased down and passed Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic. This is an ongoing battle however, with less than a mile separating the rivals.

Note: This is the stage of the race where the rankings may be totally skewed, as a team committed to the south track falls back while any team hedging to the east to cut the corner instantly jumps up. The rankings will likely be in state of flux until the very end.

Leg 2 – Position Report (19:00 UTC)
1. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED) 2590.3 nm DTF
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA) 40.5 nm DTL
3. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS) 49.4 nm DTL
4. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR) 49.4 nm DTL
5. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP) 65.7 nm DTL
6. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 123.1 nm DTL
7. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED) 135.2 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Leader

To see the crew lists… click here.

Race detailsLive contentScoreboardRace routeFacebookYouTube

The second leg of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race started November 5 and is expected to take three weeks for the seven teams to complete the 7000 nm course from Lisbon, Portugal to Cape Town, South Africa.

2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

Source: Volvo Ocean Race

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